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Taking Your Emotional Vitamins: Recommended Daily Allowance of Play

Daily Emotional Balance is an (infrequently commented upon) online discussion forum. Its pedigree strikes me as a bit thin. Nevertheless, it presents some intriguing ideas:

In nutrition, we have an RDA — a Recommended Daily Allowance for essential vitamins and minerals…

Is there also an RDA for emotions? Is it optimally healthy for everyone to experience a certain amount of love each day? of creativity? of competition, in the sporting sense? Of artistic fulfillment? Of connection with friends? Perhaps even hatred?

There may be research which suggests that for ideal health a person’s glands should emit so much adrenaline, so much cortisol, and so much oxytocin on a daily basis. This could translate into a requirement that one would be well served to have several kinds of experiences every day which require these hormones. They might include the feel-good emotions that everyone craves; but they might also include less popular ones like aggression, fear, and anxiety.

Play can elicit any number of emotions. “Positive” feelings are most obvious — from the comfort of bonding with friends or family in free play to the excitement of winning a game. The rest of the emotional spectrum may be a bit more difficult to recognize, but it’s all there. For instance, play researchers note that it’s in competitive play that children often first learn the motivations of deception and experience fear and anxiety due to harassment received during play. Of course, losing a game can yield sadness and disappointment. In adults, even flirting and sex can be viewed as forms of play — intertwined with lust and eroticism.

If play can bring about and is connected to so many emotions, then perhaps it’s an essential part of good health. In fact, it seems that focusing on designing play technologies to explore and elicit the gamut of human emotion could open a door to both better health and entirely new play interactions.

UPDATE (June 1, 2010): Related post on Optimal Daily Experience.

(via Hug the Monkey)

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